Tottenham Hotspur 4 – 4 Chelsea

Match reports

The Times: “How Chelsea must hate Tottenham Hotspur. Beaten by them in the Carling Cup final at Wembley last month, it was the North London side who again thwarted their ambitions, this time in the Barclays Premier League and in an astonishing eight-goal extravaganza at White Hart Lane last night.”

The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: “Chelsea are now five points adrift of the leaders Manchester United and were nearly beaten in stoppage time by a Dimitar Berbatov attempt that was saved. That harm is great enough considering the strong position held after two goals from the superb Joe Cole and the credentials of the manager Avram Grant, who made dubious substitutions, despite some slick play from his team.”

The Independent, Sam Wallace: “While Avram Grant fiddled, Chelsea’s title ambitions burned. It was, quite simply, the most extraordinary game of the season so far – a conflagration of eight goals, three Tottenham comebacks and another set of bizarre tactical decisions from a Chelsea manager who just cannot get it right in the big games.”

Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “Avram Grant continues to fluff his lines on the big stage. The Chelsea coach’s negative substitution of an attacker, Salomon Kalou, for a centre-half, Alex, invited Spurs on, setting up a thrilling climax in which Robbie Keane struck a marvellous equaliser which will have been celebrated as wildly by followers of Arsenal and Manchester United as by the Tottenham faithful.”

Official Chelsea FC Website, Andy Jones: “Having been in front three times on the night, and never behind, it was a disappointing result for Avram Grant’s men.”

The goals

03′ Drogba 0-1
12′ Woodgate 1-1
20′ Essien 1-2
52′ Joe Cole 1-3
61′ Berbatov 2-3
75′ Huddlestone 3-3
80′ Joe Cole 3-4
88′ Keane 4-4

We ‘ate Tott’num.

We ‘ate Tott’num.

We ‘ate Tott’num.

This was a fantastic game, if you are neutral, with more highs and lows than world stock markets.

This was just five minutes away from being a fantastic game, if you are a Chelsea fan.

This was a fantastic game if you are a Spurs fan and one minute away from being one of the greatest.

But all said and done this was a great game if you’re a Manchester United fan.

On the touchline we had the fascinating juxtaposition of Juande Ramos and Avram Grant. Ramos with his thick black hair, swarthy Mediterranean complexion and finely chiselled jaw all wrapped up in his slim fitting expensive coat next to Grant, recently compared to an overweight Larry Grayson, who has the face to have played the Incredible Melting Man without the aid of prosthetic makeup.

But as the saying goes, never judge a book by its cover. Is Ramos an opening chapter full of raunchy sex which fizzles out as an unsatisfying read discarded to a dusty shelf at the back of the library? And is Grant akin to Tolstoy; not easy to take to at first because it’s big, weighty and difficult to understand but with perseverance will stand the test of time?

Tonight we took the Grant book off the shelf to settle down for a good read, opened the cover and, guess what, all the pages are blank! There’s nothing going on inside.

The highlights

Chelsea set off at a great tempo, lots of crisp passing and it was clear that the team really wanted to win.

We took the lead after only three minutes when, after a Chelsea free kick got cleared to the edge of the area and John Terry controlled and passed the ball like an accomplished midfielder to Didier Drogba to head in from close range.

Not long later Jonathan Woodgate equalised from a cross where our defenders seemed rooted to the ground.

But it didn’t take too long for us to restore our lead with a decent run from Joe Cole and a pass into Michael Essien who finished with a delicate lob. There was some debate whether Drogba was offside but, since nobody has a clue about active or inactive, phase one or phase two, it’s a debate that can never be won.

Half time 1-2 and all looking good.

Ten minutes into the half and we get the two goal cushion we need to relax and enjoy the remainder of the evening. Good work from Kalou to find Joe Cole who shot from a tight angle, the ball bouncing off Paul Robinson and looping into the net.

And then our Achilles heel, inability to defend set plays, was exposed twice. Dimitar Berbatov headed the first, with our defence once more playing statues, not helped by Carlo Cudicini flapping and then Tom Huddlestone made it 3-3 after we failed to clear a corner and he struck the loose ball home.

With ten minutes left it looked like we’d got the winner. Great play from Joe Cole, beating Pascal Chimbonda on the edge of the box before blasting home into the top corner.

Surely we could hold a lead this time?

With only two minutes left Berbatov floated a ball to the edge of our box. Was it a fluke or just bad defending when the ball bounced off the back of Ricardo Carvalho straight into the path of Robbie Keane to fire home.

By this time Grant had taken off Joe Cole, our most likely scorer, so our last throw of the dice was to bring on Andriy Shevchenko. When you’ve only got one die left you can be sure you’re not going to throw lucky 7.

Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse Spurs had a great chance to score the winner. Berbatov was clean through on the six yard box but Cudicini made a wonder save.

The good

  1. Don’t shoot me down but if you can forget the score this was the best we’ve played for ages. The players were up for this game, the tempo was good, lots of fine interplay and four goals.
  2. Essien’s found his mojo.
  3. Drogba’s almost found his mojo. Not a full stiffy but getting there.

The bad

  1. Can’t defend set piece crosses. It would be interesting to know the thoughts of the watching Fabio Capello.
  2. Grant’s substitutions.

Player ratings

  • Carlo Cudicini: Made one wonder save and another great save but you don’t get more than 5 if you let in 4 goals and flap at corners. Harsh I know – 5/10.
  • Paulo Ferreira: Solid, steady, good passing – 7/10.
  • Ricardo Carvalho: Got to take his share of responsibility for conceding 4 – 6/10.
  • John Terry: Also got to share the blame. Did well to create our opening goal but defending he seems to have lost the ability to jump when it counts. This is on top of the performance at Sunderland where he was consistently out jumped by Kenwyne Jones – 6/10.
  • Ashley Cole: Generally played well but did his best to get sent off, not by the way he planted his studs into Alan Hutton’s shin but by his petulance when he got booked – 7/10.
  • Michael Essien: Strong, dynamic, accurate passing, scored – 8/10.
  • Claude Makelele: Steady – 7/10.
  • Frank Lampard: Okay but a bit subdued for Frank – 7/10.
  • Joe Cole: Lots of good runs, one good goal and one excellent goal – 8.5/10.
  • Salomon Kalou: Lots of good play and helped create a couple of goals – 7/10.
  • Didier Drogba: More determined and he scored – 7/10.

Man of the Match

Joe Cole – all action and two goals (Essien was a close second).

Final thought

We ‘ate Tott’num.

We ‘ate Tott’num.

We ‘ate Tott’num.

Related links